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Theater for the young. ( and broke).

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PB ENT.
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joined:6/11/03
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Theater for the young. ( and broke).#0
Posted: 8/22/03 at 9:17pm
In light of the new "age" revelation of Broadwayworld.com, I thought this article was interesting and invites your input. Have fun! pati b


Theatre finds way to lure all ages


RICHARD OUZOUNIAN

Why aren't young people coming to the theatre?

With virtually every one of our companies — big and small — facing a distressing number of empty seats, it make sense to ask why the under-35s aren't more devoted playgoers.

I think it comes down to two things: For most of them, conventional theatre costs too much and means too little.

It's not that they hate the art form. Far from it. All you have to do is hang out at the Fringe or Summerworks to encounter hundreds of people who wouldn't be caught dead at Stratford, Shaw or CanStage.

They're willing to pay nine or 10 bucks to line up for tickets and take a chance on something different.

They'll pack the Great Hall for Romeo And Juliet Remixed or the Tranzac Club for Evil Dead: The Musical, because the prices are low and the shows sound exciting.

But somehow it doesn't translate into the establishment theatre. CanStage is trying out a "25 for 25" deal, where those aged 25 or younger can get tickets for $25. Fine, but what about once you hit 26?

The same question applies to the student discounts almost every theatre offers. What happens to you after college? Should the theatres assume that you can suddenly afford to pay the same price as executives in their 50s? No way.

It's easy to point a finger at what's wrong, but it's harder to find a solution.

Well, fortunately, somebody has tackled the problem and figured out how to turn things around. True, it's on the other side of the Atlantic, but it still provides an object lesson people here could follow.

Nicholas Hytner took over Britain's National Theatre last April and realized his first task was to change the face of the audience. It was shrinking as it was aging, and that struck terror in his heart.

With the help of a million-pound donation from the financial services firm, Travelex, Hytner immediately announced that two-thirds of the seats for the entire National season would be put on sale for £10 each ($22 Canadian).

That's it. No strings attached. You don't have to be 16 going on 17 or enrolled in a university. You need not wave a card, book in advance or line up in the rain for unsold seats.

For $22, a great seat at the National Theatre can be yours.

That's half the battle. The other half is what's on stage, and Hytner rose to the challenge.

He put together a season of extraordinary cleverness: a mixture of the edgy and the entertaining, shows that theatre fans of all ages are clamoring to get into.

Jerry Springer — The Opera was the calling card, an outrageous piece that combined shock theatre with musical bravura and had something to offend (and attract) everyone. Audiences packed the theatre to thrill to the hit song, "This Is My Jerry Springer Moment," featuring the unforgettable lyric "So dip me in chocolate and throw me to the lesbians/I don't want this moment to die."

That helped grab the headlines, but the reviews were also solid for a modern reimagining of Henry V, starring black actor Adrian Lester. Unlike the gimmicky productions seen in recent years at Stratford and the N.Y. Shakespeare Festival, Hytner's production managed to hit all the right notes.

Typical was the praise of The Guardian: "The war in Iraq is never far away in this production ... nobody can argue that it isn't pertinent and it's also pretty thrilling to watch. Adrian Lester is terrific as the cool operator king."

After that, the hits kept on coming. A zappy revision of The Front Page, a hot new revival of Tom Stoppard's Travesties and an electrifying turn from Kenneth Branagh in David Mamet's Edmond.

Seventeen shows in all, running in repertory, and even though not every one is a hit, the theatre palace on the South Bank is buzzing like it hasn't been in years.

As Hytner told my colleague Linda Winer from Newsday, "You look at what ticket prices were in real terms in 1976 and what they are now. They've doubled. So I thought we really have to smash our way out of that spiral. And we have to program adventurously. If the big bookstores can make a profit from selling intelligent books to curious people, surely those people are available to us — if we can make ourselves available to them for the price of a paperback or an independent film."

It worked there. Could it work here? Why not? All we need is a corporate donor with the generosity of Travelex and a producer with the courageous vision of Hytner.

Lower the ticket prices, raise the level of excitement, then just sit back and wait for the crowds to come.

I'm confident they will.
Additional articles by Richard Ouzounian

www.pbentertainmentinc.com BWW regional writer "Philadelphia/South Jersey"
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ChristineDaae
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re: Theater for the young. ( and broke).#1
Posted: 8/22/03 at 9:44pm
hmmm that is an interesting article!

>>"it make sense to ask why the under-35s aren't more devoted playgoers" Hey! We're devoted playgoers!! Although cheap theatre tickets don't sound bad..
"Life will be frozen peaches and cream. Baby, dream Your Dream" ~ SC
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TheaterBaby
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Interesting in deed. I agree that just because someone is suddenly 26 years old or just out of College does not mean they can suddenly afford these prices. Broadway has gotten much too expensive, but if it were cheaper, would it last? I don't think it would.
Rent for Broadway theatres is very expensive, not to mention the salaries that some of the more well-known stars receive today. And hey, according to our "How Old is Everyone" thread, there are quite a few under 35 theatre fans. re: re: Theater for the young. ( and broke). I just hope the prices don't get any higher.
"It's the little things; the details, that distinguish the Barbra Streisands from the Rosalyn Kinds."~Gilmore Girls~
Updated On: 8/22/03 at 10:17 PM
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Phantess
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Hence the reason why so many are appealing to musical movies...and television series.

I'd love to see lower prices...but I guess the actors and musicians have to eat also.
JakeB
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joined:5/15/03
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I live in the UK and can certainly say that the £10 season and the whole 'new youth shows' are working. I now love the National Theatre, have been twice in the last season where before I had never been.
DofB5
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Theater for the young. ( and broke).#5
Posted: 8/23/03 at 11:01am
It was a very good article but it’s not just the young who cannot afford to go to the theater as much as they would like. I get a 3.5% raise and they raise my phone bill by 2-3%, my insurance by 5% or it works to just push me over the edge into a new tax bracket and everything else goes up to boot! So where does that leave me? Instead of being 3.5% AHEAD I’m really in the HOLE. But hey, I got a raise. Whoopie!

It just breaks my heart when I hear that an actor ONLY made 5 million for a movie deal. Poor things. I know that by the time everything breaks down–paying their manager, etc, etc, etc they only get about a million. I can just imagine how tough it must be having to buy the 2nd best champagne.

D